Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca, CEO of New York Cancer & Blood Specialists...

Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca, CEO of New York Cancer & Blood Specialists in Port Jefferson Station, seen on Oct. 1, 2018. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The article “Blue Cross drops LI cancer care provider” [News, April 16] brings to light the necessity for a single-payer insurance system in America. The article reports that as of June 1, New York Cancer & Blood Specialists will no longer be in the Empire BlueCross BlueShield network.

Imagine a cancer patient who is comfortable with and trusts his or her doctor, but can no longer get care from that provider because his or her insurance company says so. Empire did not specify a reason for the change, except that it was “a result of our regular network review.” My hope is that this is not merely about profits. It’s time to take insurance companies and the desire for profits out of health care so people can decide what doctor they want to see without interference from a third party.

Brian Rhodes,

  Stony Brook

NYS tax exclusion is overdue for a raise

While doing my taxes, I was astounded to learn that the pension and annuity income exclusion of $20,000 per person on New York State taxes for people 59 1/2 and older hasn’t changed since it was set in 1981. The exclusion applies to income from private accounts, including IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Bills pending in Albany propose annual increases of $5,000 to begin in 2021 and stop at $40,000 in 2024. But this would still be below the rise in the cost of living in the past 38 years.

By 2021, when the legislation could first be implemented, $20,000 in 1981 would be the equivalent of about $60,000.

While a change is long overdue, the proposal falls woefully short of cost-of-living increases since 1981. Taxpayers should ask their elected representatives to support increasing the pension exclusion, but to amend the bill to the present equivalent of $60,000 — and to mandate yearly cost-of-living increases, no more than what was put in place in 1981, but no less. That’s only fair to present and future seniors.

Daniel Maher,


Some readers tut-tutted the disappointment people feel over smaller income-tax refunds [“The effects of the new tax law,” Letters, April 17].

Yes, I know, an adjustment to my withholding would have fixed that. Yes, I know, big refunds mean I let the government take more than I should have and give it an interest-free loan.

What accountants and rich policy-makers don’t seem to get is that people who live paycheck to paycheck have a hard time saving. Everything in the checking account is needed for living expenses. Withholding provides a near painless lump sum once a year that is often applied to regular large bills like real estate taxes or to pay down Christmas credit-card purchases.

Enough scolding already!

Ann Kemler,

  Long Beach

Find solutions now to end border crisis

The president says he might send immigrants who are here illegally to sanctuary cities and states [“Trump immigrant threat,” News, April 13]. Some Democratic leaders responded that the plan was illegal, sophomoric and unpresidential. Was their reaction NIMBYism or just plain obstinance?

Now is the time to end our untenable immigration system and replace it with one that works. The issue has festered for 40-plus years, and now the ooze has become infectious. Yet our government exerts little to no substantial effort to fix the issue. The two sides are hunkered down casting hyperbole at each other.

Give credit to the president, for either right or wrong, he is pushing the envelope, trying to get Congress to fix the problem. A blind man can see the border is in crisis, yet I believe the men and women in Congress do not wish to see. When will the hyperbole stop and substantial progress be made?

Bob Bittner,


Border crisis or humanitarian crisis, call it what you want. However, the United States has hundreds of thousands of homeless people who are U.S. citizens. These are men, women and children. They include military veterans.

Our dysfunctional House of Representatives is failing to help citizens, but seems to go out of its way to help immigrants who enter the country asking for asylum and want access to our resources. For example, Congress should address the court ruling that requires immigrant children to be released in this country after only 20 days of detention. That period should be extended, or U.S. agents should have the authority to release children and families on the other side of the U.S. border.

Solve our own homeless problems first; then we might have more flexibility with people from other countries.

Raymond P. Moran,

  Massapequa Park

Force elected officials to balance budgets

After former Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio died, much was said about the gift he gave residents by the way he ran the town — a fiscally sound government with no debt for the next generation to pay off [“Four decades as supervisor of Smithtown,” News, April 8]. He set an important example.

I believe no elected official should be allowed to serve for more than four years if the government he or she serves cannot achieve a balanced budget in at least one of those years.

Ken Gillespie,


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